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Battlefield Robots

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is seeking proposals for LANdroids -- a fleet of miniature, intelligent mobile robots that will aid military communications in urban settings. The goal is to create small, inexpensive robotic radio relay nodes that dismounted warfighters will drop as they deploy. The nodes will then self-configure to form a mesh network -- a temporary infrastructure that establishes communications over the region. Through movement and density, the LANdroids will enable continuous communications in complex, non-line-of-sight environments, dealing with phenomena such as fades and shadows through strategic self-placement and chaining of the relays. DARPA is holding an industry briefing on the LANdroid program this Friday, July 6, in Arlington, VA. Proposals are due by August 16. Visit here for more info.

Posted in: Blog

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Current Attractions

Origin 8 Windows-based data analysis and graphing software from OriginLab Corp., Northampton, MA, has been named NTB's Product of the Month for July. The software operates around a revamped workbook space, which allows results of an analysis to be placed into a worksheet within the raw data's workbook. Parameter values, statistics, and related analysis graphs are available whenever looking at the original data. A new multi-sheet workbook feature keeps all related data, analyses, and graphs together. Sheets can be moved, added, inserted, or deleted. Workbooks in the new version also contain a new feature that allows users to embed graphs and images within cells to create a custom report. Click here for more info.

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Techs of the Week

An electromagnetic actuator is a highly sensitive motion control device that employs more reliable and cleaner electromagnetic technologies to replace slower, less precise, larger, noisier, and environmentally unfriendly hydraulic omponents. This patented technology uses an armature in the form of a piston that moves on its own slide bearing rings. Fully sealed construction allows the actuators to operate underwater, in a vacuum, or in a hostile or sterile environment. A computer-controlled, programmable control interface allows safe manual control of motorized vehicles that typically move heavy loads or operate in variable terrain. A proprietary computer program enables an operator to manage a load as if it were light and on a smooth, level surface, regardless of the actual grade. Operation does not require manipulation of throttle and/or brakes. The technology has been applied to wheelchairs and is adaptable to bicycles, pallet jacks, or any wheeled device that benefits from power assist. The Technologies of the Week describe inventions offered for license through the yet2.com marketplace. Search over $2.5 billion of licensable technologies at www.yet2.com.

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Transparent Transistors

Researchers at Purdue University's Birck Nanotechnology Center have used nanotechnology to create transparent transistors and circuits, a step that promises applications from e-paper and flexible color screens for consumer electronics, to "smart cards" and heads-up displays in auto windshields. The transistors are made of single nanowires, or tiny cylindrical structures, that were assembled on glass or thin films of flexible plastic. The nanowires are transparent because they are made of materials that do not absorb light in the visible range of the spectrum. In conventional electronics, transistors are connected to the rest of the circuitry by tiny lines of metal that act as wires. But in the new approach, the nanowires are the transistors. Other researchers had previously created nanowire transistors, but the metal electrodes in the transistors were non-transparent, which made the overall structure opaque. The advancement has potential applications in areas such as transparent displays for heads-up displays on windshields and information displays on eyeglasses and visors; sports goggles for spectators to follow a particular player while having relevant statistics displayed; and real-time interactive information for soldiers and surgeons. Flexible displays for "e-paper" would allow full-motion video. Unlike conventional flat-panel displays, which use a backlight to illuminate pixels, e-paper reflects light like ordinary paper and is capable of holding text and images indefinitely without drawing electricity. Potential uses of e-paper include energy efficient ways of displaying information and video as a replacement for magazines, newspapers, books, electronic signs, and billboards. Find out more here.

Posted in: Blog

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Embedded Security: Down to the Silicon

Embedded applications are increasingly going online. With the introduction of new embedded technologies that utilize a wide variety of communications options from Ethernet to Wi-Fi and ZigBee, there is a pressing need to secure these applications against the same problems that are inherent in any networked application.

Posted in: Articles

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Radar Interferometer for Topographic Mapping of Glaciers and Ice Sheets

A report discusses Ka-band (35-GHz) radar for mapping the surface topography of glaciers and ice sheets at high spatial resolution and high vertical accuracy, independent of cloud cover, with a swath-width of 70 km. The system is a single- pass, single-platform interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) with an 8-mm wavelength, which minimizes snow penetration while remaining relatively impervious to atmospheric attenuation.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs

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Algorithm Optimally Allocates Actuation of a Spacecraft

A report presents an algorithm that solves the following problem: Allocate the force and/or torque to be exerted by each thruster and reaction-wheel assembly on a spacecraft for best performance, defined as minimizing the error between (1) the total force and torque commanded by the spacecraft control system and (2) the total of forces and torques actually exerted by all the thrusters and reaction wheels. The algorithm incorporates the matrix⋅vector relationship between (1) the total applied force and torque and (2) the individual actuator force and torque values. It takes account of such constraints as lower and upper limits on the force or torque that can be applied by a given actuator. The algorithm divides the aforementioned problem into two optimization problems that it solves sequentially. These problems are of a type, known in the art as semi-definite programming problems, that involve linear matrix inequalities. The algorithm incorporates, as subalgorithms, prior algorithms that solve such optimization problems very efficiently. The algorithm affords the additional advantage that the solution requires the minimum rate of consumption of fuel for the given best performance.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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